On our way back from Lalomano Beach Fales, we call in at To Sua Ocean Trench for a second time. The sun shines brighter, there is no rain, and the steps are dry. We arrive among the first visitors of the morning. The water isn’t busy. We might this time see the trees for the tourists.
Three swimmers climb down before us. They introduce themselves to Kate and swim off in a northerly direction. They are none other than the newly appointed US Ambassador to New Zealand & Samoa, his wife, and aide. Although we guessed somebody important might be here. An official white SUV, with ensign and flashing orange light, had overtaken us on the road only minutes before. Ironic, seeing how the ambassador’s photo had appeared on the front page of the Samoa Observer on Thursday, as he met His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Va’aletoa Sualauvi II, the Samoan Head of State.
We seem to be making a habit of bumping into people in the news. The Samoan news anyway. Yesterday Kate introduced herself to a group of palagis walking along Lalomanu Beach. Not only were they maths teachers, but they too had appeared on the front page of the Samoa Observer on Friday, part of a Peace Corps celebration in Apia.
Talk about two degrees of separation. Here it’s only one degree.
Kate bravely descends the steep ladder into the Trench, jumps into the water and swims off in a northerly direction too. Into the cave that runs to the second trench – and along a submerged rope to hold against the current. I climb down and swim after her. Through the natural beauty of the cave and towards the natural beauty of Kate. Together we reach the end and gaze up through a funnel of dense bush at the sky. Truly magnificent.
There’s not only us and the three Americans down here, but a German family too. They introduce themselves and ask if I can take their pictures on my Go-Pro. Strange, how the scale of this place encourages people to talk to each other. Against its breathtaking proportions, nationality and status disappear. You can’t say the same about global attractions such as the Tower of London or Shakespeare’s Birthplace. Low beam ceilings and creaky floors don’t seem to encourage the same kind of tourist bonding. Well actually I don’t know. Maybe they do.
Back up the ladder and we explore the rest of the grounds.
First down steps to a viewpoint on the right. Big waves crash on the shore below. This is a wild section of coast. I spot a tree on which someone has nailed crude rungs, for nutters to climb down, and perhaps up. This must be where the underwater passage from the Trench reaches the sea. Occasionally people swim out through it, although it is phenomenally dangerous, especially at high tide. Several people have drowned, including a NZ/Samoan marine who disappeared here at the beginning of the year.
Not an activity I’ll be recommending to Ted. Or Teresa for that matter either.
Further on, we walk down to a rock pool where it is safe to swim. Next to the pool, separated by a barrier of rocks, runs a scary chasm where waves crash first one way and then the other. Poseidon’s cocktail shaker. Fall in there and you won’t ever be tasting a margarita again.
Beyond, a path of sorts leads to a rocky black promontory. And hey, this might be the place where they filmed the final Australian Survivor immunity challenge, the last three contestants balancing one-footed for hours and holding onto a sea-drenched post. In fact, there is a post out there – this could actually be the spot. Carefully I make my way out to investigate, wary of any rogue waves that might sweep me away. Across a cheese-grater of black rocks, a sluice that has recently been submerged, then finally to the post. Except it’s not a post. It’s a flimsy plastic tube. And it’s HISSING.
I turn around. Make my way back. Try not to panic.
This is a stupid idea, coming out here. No way can this be a location from Australian Survivor. Only one contestant wins, but the rest do usually survive.
Let’s hope we do too.